UAE champion jockey keeps his family promise as reward for success
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A Swiss holiday is the prize for jockey Tadhg O’Shea and his family after Switzerland gave the Irishman his first Group 1 winner in the UAE.
The Bhupat Seemar-trained gelding landed the $2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, becoming the only locally-trained runner to win across the nine-race card at the 26th edition of the Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Racecourse.
“I jokingly said to my two kids if Switzerland wins, that’s where we go for our next holiday,” O’Shea told The National.
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“The holiday now done, we don’t have to look for any more destinations. That’s where we go.”
O’Shea, 39, has been riding in the Emirates for more than two decades and remains on course for an unprecedented 10th jockeys’ championship and is the all-time leading rider with 667 winners.
This season, he’s on 65 winners, eight more than his closest challenger Antonio Fresu with two meetings left in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain on Thursday and Friday.
“It was a brilliant night,” O’Shea said. “It actually didn’t start off in a good way. I had a very good horse [Al Nefud] in the Godolphin Mile but unfortunately I had to pull him up as I felt he was a long way behind.
“He turned out very lame. Hopefully he will be back next season to show what he can do. Then obviously the night went on when Bendoog ran well to finish fourth in the UAE Derby and then the win on Switzerland.
“It was an amazing win for me as it was my first thoroughbred Group 1 winner in the UAE after more than 20 years of riding here. And obviously being on a Dubai World Cup night was a great, great for the entire team.”
Switzerland was the only locally-trained horse, in the silks of the UAE Football Association President Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuami’s RRR Racing, to win a prize. “Sheikh Rashid is a big supporter of horse racing here and it gave me a lot of satisfaction to ride a winner for him,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea revealed that he had forecast Switzerland’s chances to trainer Seemar. “After winning the Al Gharoud Sprint at Meydan on New Year’s Day, I told Bhupat if he can produce that on Dubai World Cup night, he’s gonna be unbelievably competitive,” he said.
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“I wouldn’t be saying he was going to win but honestly that’s what I said to him. Then he went to the Saudi Cup meeting [finished sixth] and things didn’t happen for him.”
O’Shea noted the eight-year-old was back to his prime last week. “His walk was very good and I thought he got a very good chance if replicating his morning training,” he said.
“The plan is for him to come and do the same thing next season, starting off with the Al Gharhoud Sprint and then another crack at the Golden Shaheen.”
O’Shea said he had many people to thank for his success but none more than his wife Debbie. ““My wife and two sons Daragh (11) and Aaron (9) witnessed the success on the night and that was really amazing,” he said.
“It was a tremendous night and will long live in my memory. We thank the trainers, owners and stable staff all the time but my wife Debbie is a huge support to me in the background.
“Not every day goes well in our profession and she sees through the good days and bad days for me. She’s my biggest fan and supporter.”
O’Shea’s first ever ride in the Dubai World Cup, on Remorse, was also a creditable one with the five-year-old Dubawi gelding finishing best of the local runners in sixth. “He ran a great race … We are all very proud of him,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea has two victories in the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic, the Arabian showpiece and traditional opener of the Dubai World Cup, winning the prize on Eric Lemartinel’s Mizzna in 2008 and on Ernest Oertel’s Maher in 2019.
He was 11th in a field of 16 on Oertel’s AF Alajaj this time on a horse doing the 2,000m distance for the first time.
“It just didn’t work for him,” O’Shea said. “He was against some experienced horses and doing the distance for the first time. He’s still an exciting horse and we go back and make a plan for next season.”
Updated: March 27, 2022, 2:01 PM